Two bills dealing with what kids consume at school are under consideration by the Texas House on Tuesday.
Invest in obesity control
Overweight and obesity contribute to diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Texas has an easy-to-see obesity crisis. Some 66 percent of Texas adults are overweight or obese; the United States average is 63 percent. During the past three decades, obesity rates in children have more than tripled in the country. Today, 32 percent of Texas children (ages 10-17) are obese.
The obesity epidemic, and the ever-younger age groups that it strikes, threatens Texas’ physical and fiscal health. Texas’ continually expanding waistline correlates to our health care cost demands. Obesity is responsible for 27 percent of the growth in health care spending. Treating obese patients costs 37 percent more than treating normal-weight patients.
The rise in overweight and obesity is affecting the bottom line of Texas employers. The Texas Comptroller’s Office found that in 2009, obesity cost Texas businesses an estimated $9.5 billion, due to higher employee insurance costs, absenteeism, and other effects. Left unchecked, obesity could cost employers $32.5 billion annually by 2030.
Improved physical health in students has been linked to academic success. Conversely, children with obesity are more prone to absences and lower grades. In the United States, students who are physically active at least 60 minutes on most days, play on at least one sports team, or watch fewer than three hours of television per day consistently have “mostly A’s.”
A great proportion of obese adults were overweight or obese as children. This serious risk factor is found in Texas, where more than 30 percent of children in grades 4 through 11 are overweight or obese. A child who is overweight at age 12 has a 75-percent chance of being overweight as an adult.
There is no single solution to preventing or addressing obesity. Multiple evidence-based approaches must be pursued for physicians, communities, schools, and workplaces, and each must identify potential barriers to implementing local programs.